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NY lawmaker wants to outlaw targeted web ads

AdSense in GmailThe first time you notice an ad that seems to be targeted just at you, it might be kind of cool, or kind of creepy. Sure, it's great that you send an email to a friend using Gmail about a vacation you're taking in Mexico and then you noticed an ad for discounts on hotels in Cancun. But umm, that means a Google machine is reading your email, right? The same thing happens when you visit many other web sites that gather data about you and then serve up customized ads targeted toward you.

Apparently one New York legislator decided this was all rather creepy, not cool. Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has drafted a bill that would make it illegal to use your personal information without asking you first. Of course, there are many ways to ask for permission, like by burying a question in a long EULA that you have to OK before signing up for a web service. While the law would only affect New York state, the internet knows no state borders, so in order to comply companies would probably have to change their policies entirely.

On the one hand, we applaud Brodsky for attempting to protect the privacy rights of consumers who may not even realize that big companies are gathering and using their data. On the other hand, isn't it a few years too late for this kind of legislation? Aren't most of the folks who care this deeply about privacy rights already using anonymizing software on their PCs, opting out of everything they can opt out of, or unplugging their computers and moving into caves?

Tags: advertising, news, privacy, security